Today’s selected reading continues in the second New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Thessalonica. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses six through eighteen of the third chapter of the epistle. When we come to this portion of the epistle we find the apostle Paul concluding and drawing to a close this particular epistle. With the words that are found and contained in this passage of scripture we find this second epistle drawing to a close. This epistle marks the second epistle which the apostle Paul would write to the saints which were at Thessalonica from the city of Athens in Greece. When you read the words which the apostle Paul writes in these particular verses you will find the apostle writing to these early beloved saints concerning those among them who would walk in a disorderly or unruly mindset and state of being. If you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints in this passage of scripture you will find that he provides very specific instructions concerning those among them who would walk disorderly and unruly, and essentially those who not only could not be brought under the authority of the Word, but also those who would choose to live their lives contrary to it. The apostle in these verses takes the time to provide very specific instruction unto these saints to guard themselves—and specifically their fellowship and community—from those among them who would work in an unruly and disorderly function and did not in fact walk after the pattern which was displayed by the apostle Paul and his companions. If you read the epistles which the apostle Paul wrote unto these saints you will find that he referenced a specific example and pattern of living which was set forth for them while they were among them within the city of Thessalonica. Essentially and ultimately that which the apostle Paul was writing unto these saints concerning those who were essentially irresponsible, lazy, and busybodies. The apostle Paul wrote unto these saints concerning the reality of those would deviate from a pattern of righteousness that was presented unto them while Paul and his companions were among them.
What I absolutely love about the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Thessalonica is that the apostle Paul once more referenced the way they lived their lives among them, so as to speak of a powerful example that was displayed among them. This is actually quite incredible and quite powerful, for while the apostle Paul and his companions were among the people of this city it wasn’t simply about preaching the word concerning Jesus Christ and His being crucified and rising on the third day. Present within this city—in addition to the presence of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ—was a powerful witness and testimony which was displayed and manifested among them. I absolutely love that the apostle Paul speaks of and mentions how he and his companions lived among them, for it suggests that it wasn’t simply about the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ that would truly make an impact on these saints. We oftentimes have this misguided notion and preconceived idea that it is the gospel alone which truly transforms and changes the lives of those around us. I am reminded of the phrase that for some people we might be the only gospel others might read and even hear. What that statement literally means is that those around us might never hear the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, but they might very well and very easily see the example which we present unto them. When we speak of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, I am convinced that there are essentially two realities which directly correspond to the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, which not only enhance the gospel, but also even set the stage for the gospel to even be preached. We would be incredibly naïve that in every place the sole of our foot treads we will be so quickly and easily able to proclaim the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. The truth of the matter is that this simply isn’t the case, and that there is sometimes a work which precedes the proclamation of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. What’s more, is that the same reality could be said concerning a work which confirms the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ among those we encounter within and throughout the course of our daily lives.
Please note and please understand that what I am suggesting is in no way a declaration that the gospel is not important, nor is in fact necessary. When I write the words which I have just presented in this writing concerning a preceding work of the gospel, as well as a proceeding work of the gospel, what I am speaking of is that there is a work that does in fact come before the gospel and prepares the way for the gospel, and there is a work that comes after the gospel which does in fact confirm the gospel that is preached. Regardless of whether we are speaking of the preceding work of the gospel, or the proceeding work of the gospel, we must emphatically understand and recognize that the gospel is in fact the center of both. In fact, I would dare say that without and apart from the gospel there would be no preceding work, and there certainly wouldn’t be a proceeding work of the gospel—either in the generation of the apostles, early church fathers, and the early church, and even in our generation. I firmly believe that the gospel is most certainly enough to change and transform the lives of those we interact with on a daily basis, however, with that being said, I am convinced that more often than not there is something that comes before the preaching of the gospel which sets the stage for the preaching of the gospel we present to those around us. I am convinced that more often than not there is a powerful work which sets the stage and prepares the heart of men and women for the gospel concerning Jesus Christ in any generation. I firmly believe with all my heart that more often than not men and women don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. I realize that phrase is cliché and is used frequently, however, I am convinced that this phrase is especially true when speaking of and considering the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. In fact, I am convinced that more often than not, men and women around us don’t care anything about what we know, or even what we have to preach and present unto them until they first know how much we care. In other words, there has to be something that completely and utterly sets the stage for the preaching and proclamation of the gospel. More often than not, it is utterly and completely impossible to present various people groups with the gospel concerning Jesus Christ unless there is first the preceding work which in fact prepares the way for the gospel to be preached.
THE PRECEDING WORK OF THE GOSPEL! Consider if you will the words and language that is found and contained within this particular passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul writing concerning the example which he and his companions set for the people of THessalonica while they were among them. Beginning with the sixth verse of this chapter we find the following words written by the hand of the apostle: “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follus us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:6-16). With the words we read and the words we find in this particular passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul once more writing and speaking concerning the example which he set before the inhabitants of Thessalonica while he was with them. In fact, in the seventh verse of this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul first writes and mentions how those within Thessalonica know how they ought to follow them, for they behaved not themselves disorderly among them. Please don’t miss or lose sight of the tremendous significance of what is written and what is contained in this particular verse, for within this verse is not only the the power of example, but also the power of witness and testimony. In all reality, when we speak of the preceding work of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, I am firmly convinced that this preceding work not only includes the tremendous power of witness, but it also includes the tremendous power of witness as well. I would emphatically state and declare unto you who would read the words contained within this writing that more often than not—in order for the gospel concerning Jesus Christ to truly be preached among men, there needs to be this joint unity of work between witness and testimony.
What do I mean when I write and speak of the powerful work of witness and testimony? IN the seventh verse of this passage of Scripture we not only find the apostle Paul writing and speaking unto these saints concerning how they ought to follow them, but we also find the apostle Paul writing and speaking unto them how they conducted and behaved themselves among the inhabitants within the city of Thessalonica. In order to present this reality even more, I feel compelled to journey back to the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Thessalonica—specifically that which is contained in the first chapter beginning with the second verse of the chapter. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints in Thessalonica beginning with the second verse: “WE give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: so that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonian and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to Godward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-10).
The first thing you will notice when reading this passage of Scripture is how the apostle Paul declared that the word concerning Jesus Christ came not unto them in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance. I am convinced that more often than not we believe the false claim and false reality that the word alone is enough when we attempt to preach and proclaim the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. I am utterly and completely convinced that nothing could be further from the truth, for a similar reality to what we find in this particular passage in Scripture is also found in the second chapter of the first epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Corinth. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were present within the city of Corinth: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). With these few words the apostle Paul not only declared unto these saints that he determined to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and Him crucified, but the apostle Paul also declared how when he was among them he was among them in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. What’s more, the apostle Paul declared that his speech and his preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Taking this a step further I can’t help but be reminded of the words which we find in both the sixty-first chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah, as well as the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke. The sixty-first chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book is perhaps one of the most well-known and beloved passage of Scripture within the Old Testament, for not only is it a prophetic declaration for that generation, but it was also a Messianic declaration concerning the Messiah who was to come in generations ahead. Consider if you will the words which the prophet Isaiah wrote and spoke in this particular chapter within this Old Testament prophetic book:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them. For I the Lord love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe or righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorned herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:1-10).
While this particular passage is found in the sixty-first chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah, it contains within it a powerful Messianic promise that pertains to the Messiah who was to come in future generations. In fact, when you come to the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel concerning Luke you will find the fulfillment of this passage of Scripture in the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ. Consider if you will the account of Jesus Christ after He returned from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and began to taught in all their synagogues, being glorified by all. What we find and what we read in this particular passage of Scripture is the account of Jesus standing in the Jewish synagogue within the town of Nazareth where He had been brought up. Beginning with the fourteenth verse of this passage of Scripture we find the following words: “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And He closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him. And He began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:14-22). Now, there are countless men and women who will use this particular passage of Scripture to emphasize the anointing of the Spirit to preach the gospel to the poor, and to even preach deliverance to the captives. There would be many who would quote and use this passage of Scripture to emphatically proclaim and speak of the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon the preaching and proclamation of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, and while I do believe that the Spirit does in fact anoint men to preach the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, I do not believe that is the only thing the Spirit anoints among men. We would be incredibly naïve to believe the lie and the delusion that the Spirit of the living God anoints the preaching of the gospel alone, and that is it. We do a great disservice when we think and believe that the Spirit of God anoints the preaching of the gospel alone, and that is the only thing the Spirit anoints.
THE ANOINTING OF THE WITNESS! THE ANOINTING OF TESTIMONY! The more I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote in his epistles, and the more I consider them in light of what we find and read—both in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah, as well as the New Testament gospel of Luke—the more I am convinced that just as surely and just as much as we need the anointing of the Spirit upon the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, so also we need the anointing of the Spirit of God upon our witness and our testimony. It is not enough simply to have the anointing of the Spirit upon the preaching of the gospel and not also upon the preceding work of witness and testimony. It would be incredibly easy to get caught up in the lie and the deception that the Spirit of the living God anoints the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, and cares absolutely nothing about the witness and testimony that forms the foundation and basis for the preaching of the gospel. If this were in fact true, then what should we say concerning those who never preach the gospel concerning Jesus Christ? What do we say concerning those who never step behind a pulpit, those who never hold a microphone in their hand, and those who never preach to the crowds and masses. It would be incredibly easy to look at the ministries which were entrusted to men such as Billy Graham, and Reinhard Bonke, and consider that it was only the preaching of the gospel that was anointed by the Spirit of the Lord, and the truth of the matter is that that simply isn’t the case. When I consider the ministry which was entrusted unto the late Billy Graham I can’t recall there ever being any mention of any signs, wonders and miracles that were present at the various conferences he held, and yet the gospel was preached powerfully by him unto the masses and unto the crowds. When we speak of the ministry of a man such as Reinhard Bonke, however, that ministry is not only one that touches and reaches the crowds and the masses, but that ministry was one that was characterized by the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power, as signs, wonders and miracles were performed by Jesus among the crowds and the masses. Please note and please understand that I am in no way suggesting or even implying that the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ is the only thing that is anointed by the Spirit of the living God. In fact, I would emphatically declare and proclaim that nothing could be further from the truth, for just as surely as the preaching concerning Jesus Christ needs to have upon it the oil of the anointing of the Spirit of the living God, so also must the witness and testimony also carry with it the anointing of the Spirit.
I am convinced there are men and women among us who can never and will never preach and proclaim the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, and yet have upon their lives a powerful presence of the anointing of the Spirit of the living God. How is that possible? How is it possible that men and women who never preach the gospel concerning Jesus Christ can have such a mighty anointing of the Spirit upon their lives? How is it possible that men and women who may never stand before a crowd and proclaim the gospel concerning Jesus Christ carry within and upon their lives such a strong anointing of the Spirit of the Lord? The answer is actually quite simple, for just as surely as there needs to be the anointing upon the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, there also needs to be an anointing upon the witness and testimony of the saints. I am convinced that we spend so much time asking the Lord to anoint our preaching, and to anoint our singing, and to anoint that which is seen and heard in the spotlight, and yet I am convinced that nothing could be further from the truth. I am utterly and completely convinced that when we speak of and when we consider the anointing of the Spirit of the living God, we must recognize and understand that just as much as the preaching needs to be anointed, and just as much as the singing needs to be anointed, so also does our witness, our example, and our testimony. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—when was the last time you were in a service where instead of men and women crying out and praying for the Spirit to anoint the preaching of the word, or even the singing upon the platform and state, you heard men and women crying out to the living God to anoint their witness and their testimony in the earth? When was the last time you entered into the secret closet of prayer and fervently cried out to the living God asking Him to anoint your witness and testimony in the earth in order that you might be an example to those you interact with and encounter? I believe with everything that is in me that just as significant and just as important as the preaching of the gospel is in our generation, so also is our testimony and our witness among those we interact with and encounter on a daily basis. There are men and women who can never and will never touch a single microphone and will never stand before the crowds and masses, and yet their lives carry upon them such a powerful presence of the anointing of the living God that it is absolutely impossible to deny and dispute. I believe with all my heart that one of the greatest needs we have within our hearts and lives is to ask the Spirit of the living God to anoint our witness and our testimony, for more often than not it is an anointed witness and an anointed testimony that can speak louder than words ever could.
You have heard the expression and phrase “actions speak louder than words,” and while that phrase might sound cliché, I am convinced that those words are completely and absolutely true. There are countless times when our actions can and will speak louder than words, and when men and women would rather watch how we live than listen to anything that would come forth from our lips and our mouths. In fact, there are those among us who might not even care to hear or even listen to that which we have to speak until and unless they first see how we act and how we live among them. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints of Philippi in the second chapter of the epistle which was delivered unto them. Beginning with the first verse of the second chapter of the epistle we find the following words:
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, by now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputing: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of the crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:1-18).
It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul not only writes of being blameless and harmless in our generation, but the apostle Paul also writes of being the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we shine as lights in the world. I am reminded of the words which our Lord Jesus Christ spoke in His sermon on the Mount, and specifically that which is found beginning with the thirteenth verse of the chapter. Consider if you will the words and language which is found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. Beginning with the thirteenth verse concerning the tremendous power of witness and testimony within the earth: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16). SALT! LIGHT! FRUIT! If you read and study the four gospels you will find and discover that within our lives there needs to be the presence—not only of salt, but there also needs to be the presence of light, as well as fruit. It is necessary and imperative that we recognize and pay close attention to these realities, for each of these realities speak to the tremendous power of witness and testimony in this generation, as we are to shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. What’s more, is that we have been called to be as a city which is set on a hill in order that the light might shine forth to all those whom we encounter. Furthermore, our Lord Himself spoke of letting our light so shine before men that they may see our good works, and as a result of seeing our good works, they might glorify our Father who is in heaven. Oh, please don’t miss the tremendous importance of this reality, for I am convinced that there is a tremendous need to seek the face of God to anoint our witness with the oil of the Holy Spirit, in order that we might not only let our lights shine so men might see our good works, but also so men will know that we are His disciples because of the fruit which proceeds from our lives. If there is one thing I would urge you to take from this particular writing it would be the tremendous need for the Spirit of the living God to anoint our testimony and our witness in the earth, and that we would recognize the tremendous importance of the anointing upon a powerful witness and testimony in the earth can radically and dramatically change and transform a generation as a preceding work which accompanies and even prepares the way for the gospel concerning Jesus Christ.